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Rotorua teen prostitution ring: Clayton Fox victim speaks about grooming, drug abuse, indecent assault

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Clayton Fox was sentenced to eight years and five months’ jail after previously pleading guilty to 18 charges relating to supplying teens with methamphetamine and cannabis and using underage girls in his illegal prostitution ring. Photo / Andrew Warner

Rebecca (not her real name) was just 12 when Clayton Fox and Wikitoria Pepene started selling her cannabis. But Fox – the man at the centre of a child prostitution ring – wanted something more from her. Now, in an exclusive interview with Rotorua Daily Post senior journalist Kelly Makiha, Rebecca reveals how she was groomed by Fox and how she escaped his clutches.

Clayton Fox and Wikitoria Pepene were seated in a court dock awaiting their fate when a young woman confidently strode past to read her victim impact statement.

She took comfort in knowing she was sticking to her word – part of it anyway.

The young woman, Rebecca, had been groomed and indecently assaulted by Fox.

Months earlier, after learning Fox and Pepene were running a prostitution ring using young girls, she warned Fox that one day one of the girls would either kill him or go to the police.

“I told him I would either help them hide his body, or I’ll f***ing see you in court.”

On February 14, she faced him in the Rotorua District Court.

Supported by her father by her side and several family members who attended court, Rebecca told the judge she endured three years of grooming, constant messaging and feeling like she owed Fox something.

“I lost friendships and bonds with my family because I was angry and suicidal and embarrassed and felt like I couldn’t speak up. For six years I endured the pain alone.”

After the sentencing, Rebecca, now 18, told the Rotorua Daily Post she was able to resist years of pressure from Fox to work as an underage prostitute but remains haunted by his claims she somehow inspired him to, as he put it, “help loads of other girls to be successful”.

Rebecca said Fox’s comment, contained in a text message – and the thought that she somehow had inspired his offending against other young girls – had caused her incredible trauma.

Clayton Fox and Wikitoria Pepene held hands during their sentencing in the Rotorua District Court. Photo / Andrew Warner
Clayton Fox and Wikitoria Pepene held hands during their sentencing in the Rotorua District Court. Photo / Andrew Warner

Rebecca wasn’t one of Fox’s prostitutes – for four years she said Fox gained her trust by giving her drugs and alcohol – and eventually began asking if she wanted to make money as a prostitute – dozens of times.

But each time it came up, she said she would find a way to change the subject or get out of it.

A police summary, released to the Rotorua Daily Post, said when Rebecca was 14, Fox started talking to her about being a prostitute. He explained his girlfriend, Pepene, worked as one and he provided security for her.

Fox asked Rebecca to send him indecent videos in exchange for cannabis.

The summary said Fox got Rebecca drunk and stoned one night and indecently assaulted her in a hot pool.

He and Pepene were sentenced for supplying Rebecca, and others, drugs and Fox was sentenced for the indecent assault.

Rebecca told the Rotorua Daily Post when police busted Fox’s teen sex ring, his text messages led police to her. She learned the extent he was using teens in his prostitution business.

How it all began

Rebecca was 12 when her cousin told her about a Facebook page run by Pepene under a fake name that sold cannabis to people even if they were underage.

At the time, Rebecca was having a few issues and was keen to buy the drugs.

She was instructed to leave $20 in a mailbox of where she was staying – usually at a friend’s house – and the cannabis would be dropped off.

Rebecca was thrilled they would leave twice as much as she’d pay for.

The deals progressed to meeting Fox and Pepene at the mailbox, then to smoking weed or drinking alcohol with them in their car and then to going for drives.

She said sometimes they would message her at school, and she would meet them at the front gate to collect cannabis, cannabis oil or cigarettes. Other times they’d offer her lifts.

Rebecca described Fox as “pretty chill” to hang out with and she liked the fact she was being treated like an adult and could do what she wanted.

But eventually, she said the conversations changed. Fox started asking her to be a prostitute explaining that he and Pepene would teach her everything she needed to know, including instructions for oral sex.

She said Fox offered to give her a fake name and said she would need to tell the clients she was 18. She was told she would earn $100 an hour.

Those conversations were always awkward for Rebecca and she would either change the subject or give an excuse, like she was busy, as to why she couldn’t take up their offer.

Fox eventually offered her a partnership in the business, Rebecca said. She said she now wondered if he was preparing to replace Pepene with her.

Rebecca said she realised she needed to slowly pull away so didn’t return the messages.

She said she blocked Fox and removed herself from their Facebook pages but she kept being added to new pages. She got a new Facebook name but was found and added again.

How to know you’re being groomed?

Rebecca said could now see the pattern of manipulation Fox used and realised she was being groomed.

She said Fox was creepy and had “weirdo mates” but it didn’t start like that. She was happy to hang out with him in the beginning.

“It’s because they treat you like an adult and at that age, you want to be treated like an adult, but no one is going to because you’re a f***ing kid.”

She said they drank and smoked with her and gave her drugs to make her feel she could trust them.

“What are the signs to look out for? First of all, if someone is selling you drugs when you are 12 years old, mega red flag there … If a fully grown adult is treating you like you’re a fully grown adult and you’re below the age of 16, that’s the biggest red flag.”

She said groomers started putting victims in “debt” emotionally.

“They start treating you like you owe them. It’s f***ing scary. It happens so easily and you don’t even realise before it’s too late.”

She said the emotional manipulation wasn’t obvious but they would “bomb you” with all these different things – like drugs or offers of rides to take you places.

“Then they message you and say, ‘Hi, how are you, what are you doing? Want to go and do this today?’ And you think, ‘Oh, okay’, they have just done all of these things for you, even though you didn’t ask for any of it.”

Rebecca said whenever situations arose where she felt uncomfortable, she would “negotiate” in a subtle way to get them to back off.

Methamphetamine was always offered, she said.

“I would say, ‘Nah, I don’t smoke that but I’ll smoke weed’. Just kind of give them something … There were times I wasn’t comfortable at f***ing all but those were times I was like, ‘Okay, what am I going to do about this situation?’ I was constantly planning and disconnecting myself.”

She realises now that she did not need to feel obligated to “negotiate” her way out of situations that made her feel uncomfortable.

“Why? I don’t owe them anything, but I thought I did.”

A family member, who was present in the Rotorua Daily Post interview, said it was easy to see why, in hindsight, some girls who had no relationships with their families could fall for their offers.

“For them, it would feel like for the first time they have adults care about them.”

Rebecca said despite her troubles, she came from a supportive family.

“I just knew I didn’t want to do some of those things.”

The lasting trauma

After a long period of no contact, Fox contacted Rebecca again in May 2022 via a text message.

The message started with an innocuous “hi”.

But what he said next left her traumatised.

The message, shown to the Rotorua Daily Post, said: “You were my encouragement to help loads of other girls to be successful in a world where most of uz end up wif not even da basic requirements for work wen u leave school or dropout”.

Clayton Fox appearing via audio-visual link in court at an earlier appearance. Photo / Andrew Warner
Clayton Fox appearing via audio-visual link in court at an earlier appearance. Photo / Andrew Warner

Rebecca said it made her feel disgusted that she somehow inspired his further offending.

She felt bad that he learned “what worked and what didn’t about grooming” through her.

“So, he started blowing meth into these girls’ faces and getting them addicted to drugs so they had to keep coming back to him. It made me feel disgusting.”

Rebecca still suffers from a range of mental health conditions as a result of what she went through but she remains proud she said “no” to being involved in the sex business.

“I know what I went through, and I didn’t actually do any prostitution for them. I was already embarrassed and hated myself. There’s more girls out there who are going through the same or worse.”

Rebecca said despite her ongoing battles, she was proud of herself for facing them in court.

“If I didn’t do it, no one else would do it. I wanted to see his face and I wanted him to see mine. I’m mainly just happy I told him this was going to happen and it happened.”

The court case

Fox was sentenced to eight years and five months’ jail by Judge Glen Marshall after previously pleading guilty to 18 charges relating to supplying teens with methamphetamine and cannabis and using underage girls in his illegal prostitution ring.

Fox’s sexual and drug-related offending involved four teen victims – two were aged 13 and two were 14.

A fifth girl was supplied methamphetamine but was not a victim of sexual offending.

Fox’s actions were described in court by Crown prosecutor Kris Bucher as “grooming and predatory”.

The court heard the unlicensed prostitution business used an estimated 100 women and girls. Fox was more than 30 years older than his victims when the offending occurred.

He told one girl she could earn money being one of his prostitutes but would have to do an “interview” first, which involved having sex with him at a motel.

Fox would drive another girl, aged 13, to a client’s home on the outskirts of Rotorua. Fox went on to have a consensual sexual relationship with this teen.

Pepene was sentenced on two drugs-related charges to three months’ imprisonment but was released the same day as sentencing as she had already served four months in custody since her arrest in October last year.

On the charge of running an illegal prostitution business, Judge Marshall elected not to fine her given her time in custody, and Pepene was discharged without conviction.

Kelly Makiha is a senior journalist who has reported for the Rotorua Daily Post for more than 25 years, covering mainly police, court, human interest and social issues.

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